Hopefully you would answer no to the question “Would you choose difficulty accessing health-care?” But that is the reality for Australians who live in the country. A recent survey of country folk regarding their access to health care, mental health and preventative health was undertaken as part of a collaborative project between the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the National Farmers Federation, and the Country Women’s Association of Australia (including Queensland, my home state).
In case you didn’t know, the majority of Australians (70.2%) live in major cities, but these major cities comprise just 0.3% of our land mass. Of our 23.5 million population, approximately 7 million live in remote and rural areas, with half of these living in remote or very remote areas of Australia. While Australia may be the beautiful Sunburnt Country, the poem belies some uniquely-regional experiences, such as through prose including “for flood and fire and famine” and “over the thirsty paddocks“.
So what does health-care look like, and live like, in these areas? The survey of 454 Australians living in remote and regional parts of Australia explored two key perspectives:
- the three most important health issues impacting upon their community, and
- the three areas in which funding is required to improve community health outcomes.
Most important health issues:
- general health access (32.5% of participants), including access to general practitioners, medical specialists, hospitals, diagnostic tests, and allied health services;
- mental health problems (12.2%); and
- drug and alcohol problems (4.1%).
Other health issues include cancer and cardiovascular health.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most important health funding priorities reflect the most important health issues:
- general health access (32.2%);
- mental health problems (14.6%); and
- health prevention and promotion (8.6%).
Other funding priorities include cancer, aged car, and travel and accommodation support for Australians who need to travel outside of their community to access health-related services and support.
While attention has been drawn to the need for better access to health care, and funding has been invested, this report provides the uniquely-Aussie input so critically needed in these injury prevention efforts.